John Hancock orders Lord Stirling to collect the men of the newly raised 1st New Jersey Regiment and garrison them for the defense of New York[Revolutionary War]. John Hancock Autograph Letter Twice Signed. One page with integral address leaf, 8" x 13", Philadelphia, November 27, 1775. Despite the British victory at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775, Gen. Thomas Gage, who was in command of British forces during the battle, was replaced by Gen. William Howe. Howe and Lord George Germain, recognizing the importance of New York City, decided it was necessary to organize a campaign against the city and the surrounding area, including the colony of New Jersey. Months earlier, Gen. George Washington, heading to Boston to take charge of the colonials' siege of the city, reached the same conclusion and ordered preparations for the area's defense.
On October 9, 1775, Congress authorized the raising of a regiment of troops from New Jersey to serve with the Continental Army. The 1st New Jersey Regiment, the earliest militia regiment in New Jersey dating from 1673 who had loyally served the crown until rebellion erupted in 1775, was again called into action as a member of the new Continental Army with William Alexander, Lord Stirling, appointed as its commander.
In November, John Hancock, as president of the Second Continental Congress, sent this letter to "The Honble Lord Stirling Commanding the Continental Forces in the Colony of New Jersey at Elizabeth Town," relaying his orders from Congress regarding his new command. In full:
"I am Directed by Congress to order that you Collect the Troops Raised in New Jersey / except the Six Companies ordered to the Fortress on Hudson's River / and place them in Barracks in the Eastern Division of New Jersey as contiguous to New York as may be, there to Remain till further orders from Congress."
Directly below his signature, he added the following postscript: "I have wrote by order of Congress to the Convention of New York to furnish your Troops with as many Fire Arms as they can spare, & to Send them to you for the use of your Troops, which you will please to notice." Hancock has placed a second smaller signature on the address leaf where he writes, "Congress Philad. / [signed] John Hancock."
The letter has been fully backed with archival tissue to restore separations, most notably along the upper horizontal fold (with minor paper loss, not affecting the text). A section of the address leaf has been replaced at an earlier time, the loss likely occurring at the time the letter was originally opened. The ink has blossomed in a few areas, but overall, it remains bold and highly legible.
Lord Stirling did not hold the command of the 1st New Jersey for long. In March 1776, he was given a brigadier general's commission and command of the New Jersey regiment was passed to Col. William Winds.
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